Review by Dorkmaster Flek

"Refreshingly unique and highly addictive, despite being a remake."

The One Minute Review

Trauma Center is a very unique game. Cast in the role as a hotshot rookie surgeon, the game was a trailblazer in Under the Knife on the Nintendo DS in for a new breed of touch screen games. Now, Second Opinion marks the first of what developers are referring to as "Wii-makes", so-called remakes of previous games on the Wii. The good news is that Second Opinion keeps the same stylized anime look and solid presentation as the DS original. If you've never played the DS version, you should absolutely give this game a try. Though be warned, you should start on easy as this is a very difficult game, especially near the end. If you have played the DS original, the question you're asking yourself is undoubtedly, is it worth it a second time? Well the answer is definitely yes. In addition to selectable difficulty levels, including the new hard mode which will literally make you tear your hair out in frustration, Second Opinion boasts updated 3D graphics for the surgeries themselves as well as some updated artwork for the cutscenes between missions, as well as a completely revamped control scheme for the Wii. Using the remote as a pointer onscreen and using the analog stick on the nunchuck by pressing in one of the eight directions is a huge improvement over selecting your tools via the touch screen on the DS. The game plays so much better on the Wii that it's enough to recommend a second play through, even discounting the extra chapter added for the Wii version and the revamped X missions with their new "extreme" difficulty level at the end of the game (which are harder than ever before). Most definitely a welcome addition to the Wii library, and definitely worth playing even if you've played the original.

Let's begin the operation!

The basic premise of Trauma Center is that you play the role of Dr. Derrick Stiles, a hotshot rookie surgeon who has just finished his internship at a local hospital in Los Angeles. The game is broken up into chapters, and each part of the chapter is either a cutscene advancing the story or an operation for you to perform. Usually, each operation will be followed by a cutscene, but sometimes you may have multiple cutscenes or operations together as well. The story is a fairly straightforward affair. You begin by performing some standard operations such as removing shards of glass from an accident victim and sewing him up, as well as removing some tumours in the stomach and polyps in the throat of patients, and along the way Derrick finds his footing as a doctor with the help of his lovely nurse assistant (who looks less like the hentai porn star from the DS version and more realistic here). But things get more interesting in Chapter 2 with the introduction of a genetically engineered super-virus called GUILT. This is the main focus of the story from here on in, as you attempt to fight GUILT on an international level and find out who's behind the outbreak of the virus. Not the most incredible narrative, but it keeps the game moving nicely.

Presentation-wise, the game keeps the same static backgrounds and character portraits with text dialogue for the cutscenes as the DS original. This is a little disappointing, but the game has a stylized anime look to it that is colourful, yet with a realistic looking flare, somewhat like the artwork for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the PS1. The menus are simple and functional, yet contain the same visual style. Graphically speaking, the surgeries themselves look good. The 3D renderings of the various operations are much improved over the DS version, but they keep the same visual style as the rest of the game. There is definitely a slight cell-shaded feel to the graphics, though they aren't actually cell-shaded. There is also very little actual blood seen as well, mainly just the occasional squirt as cuts are made, or some internal bleeding that needs to be drained away. The game strikes a great balance between realistically rendering the various organs and bodily operations without having to resort to tons of gore to seem authentic.

In the audio department, there isn't very much actually going on, but what is there is certainly solid. You have the various sound effects for the different surgical instruments, which are all fine and well, as well as some quick voice lines as your assistant chimes in occasionally with remarks on how you're doing. The music is generally good as well, with some catchy tunes during the cutscenes, and some tense but not bombastic background music for the surgeries themselves. The music can become more tense as you reach certain points in some of the operations as well. Nothing stellar here, but just solid audio work that provides a very suitable backdrop for the rest of the game to play out.

I will save this patient!

The main crux of Trauma Center is the unique gameplay. Your Wii Remote acts as a pointer (in fact, your cursor on the screen looks like a laser pointer) with which you manipulate the tools. You select your various surgical tools by pressing the analog stick on the nunchuck in one of the eight directions. The tool icons are displayed in a radial formation in the bottom left corner of the screen. This is one of the biggest changes in the move from the DS to the Wii. On the DS, the icons lined the right and left edges of the screen and you had to tap them with your stylus to select them. Here, you simply press the analog stick in the appropriate direction without loosing focus of the pointer in your main hand. This facilitates easily switching between half a dozen different tools in a matter of seconds, something that was nigh impossible in the DS version, and you'll need to do it often because this is one difficult game, even on easy.

The tools themselves are largely the same as the DS version, but there are several changes that have been made to accommodate the Wii remote's unique capabilities. For instance, to use the forceps you now press the A and B buttons together, effectively pinching the remote like a pair of forceps. The syringe and drain tools simply need to be held in place instead of drawn upwards, making them easier to use. The annoying heart massaging portions of the touch screen version have been completely replaced with the new defibrillator tool, which is much easier and way more fun to use. You simply hold out the remote and nunchuck like the paddles and push them towards the screen, then press the B and Z triggers together when the green meter is in the right spot. Also changed is the method of activating the Healing Touch, your signature move which effectively slows time for a brief period and can be used once per mission. There is no tool for this move, as you now simply hold B and Z and draw a five pointed star on the screen with the remote. There are also some changed portions of the missions which incorporate remote-specific functions such as twisting a patients broken bone back into place.

The surgeries themselves are pretty varied, especially once you start encountering the different strains of GUILT. Each strain behaves differently and requires a different strategy and set of tools to defeat. Some of them are more complex them others, becoming what are basically the equivalent of boss fights in Trauma Center. The later missions will have you tackling multiple strains of GUILT at once, and it's at this level that the Healing Touch becomes a vital strategic element as it's simply impossible to succeed without it later on. My only complaint with the otherwise excellently designed missions is that it is possible in the final mission of chapter 5 to be unable to complete the mission if you use your Healing Touch before you're specifically told to. This is somewhat convoluted, and I wish they had told you specifically before hand not to use it until the end.

Each operation has multiple difficulty levels to choose from ranging from easy up to extreme for the final set of missions. The game also tracks your top score and rank for each surgery and difficulty level. If you're having trouble with a particularly nasty operation, you can always go down to easy to clear it and move on with the story. You always have the option of coming back later and trying a harder level. If you want to nab a top score and rank, you'll have to work fast though. The core system remains in place, which means you'll have general and mission-specific bonuses that you can achieve for extra points. Hard mode also adds a new rank of XS on top of the regular S rank. If you can achieve this rank, you are truly a master of this game with nerves of steel and lightning reflexes, as the windows of time you have for performing the various tasks and the margin of error allowed to obtain the bonuses decreases as the difficulty level goes up.

The Final Verdict

Trauma Center is a fun, unique and intense game. Despite being a remake, the game is different enough and adds enough new features that it definitely warrants playing through it again, even if you've played the original. If you've never played the DS original, you should definitely play the Wii version, no question. The control is much improved over the DS version and the ease of switching tools now makes Second Opinion play like a whole new game. The addition of selectable difficulty levels and a new chapter for the Wii version, as well as updated artwork and graphics make this version far superior to the already great DS version. The selectable difficulty levels make the game much more approachable for gamers who might not be able to handle the sometimes overwhelming difficulty of the later missions, as well as providing an extra challenge for those who have mastered the game's mechanics and missions. The different difficulty levels and bonuses to achieve give the game some good replay value, and I would lean somewhere between 8 and 9 for this game, but I'm going to go with 8 since it is still a remake after all and the story is still told through the comic book style presentation of the original, rather than a true 3D game. For anyone interested in something different (and this is what the Wii is all about after all), Trauma Center comes highly recommended.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/13/06

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